October 22, 2016
Looking For a Job: Obama is such a Sport
October 22, 2016
October 21, 2016
The PFS Class of 1959 and I offer our sincere congratulations on the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the founding on October 21, 1816 of our alma mater today. Owing to heavy commitments at The University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, I am unable to be with you in Green Lane to join the celebrations.
I was indeed fortunate to have been an Old Boy of the School, which gave me a good beginning and for that I thank my teachers, many of whom have passed on, for their hard work and dedication, in particular our Headmaster John Michael Hughes, and his colleagues Howe, Davies and Williams, Captain Mohamed Noor, Ambrose, Ong Poh Kee et.al.
I am also privileged to have made some wonderful and kind friends like Lim Say Chong, Sheriff Kassim, Kadir Sulaiman, Muthulingam, Goh Thong Beng, the Din Brothers (Rahim and Zainuddin), Ali Ibrahim, the late Anis Isa, Loo Quek Shin, Zain Yusuff, Khoo Soo Ghim and Khoo Soo Ghee (not brothers) and many others .
I thank these guys for making life at the PFS unforgettable. It has been great fun and that’s what life is about (to quote Bing Crosby). Here’s to you, guys.–Din Merican
By Balvin Kaur- 21 October 2016 @ 9:39 AM
A memorial ceremony in honour of Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, the founder of the 200 year-old Penang Free School (PFS), was held at the Protestant Cemetery in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah here today. The event was attended by around 130 people, including PFS students, teachers and alumni, who took turns laying wreaths at Hutchings’ final resting place, which is marked with a marble tombstone with an epitaph that reads ‘Founder of Penang Free School 21 October 1816.’ The service was conducted by Bishop Charles Samuel and assisted by Reverend Ho Kong Eng, who is also an alumnus the school.
A memorial ceremony in honour of Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, founder of the 200 year-old Penang Free School (PFS) in 1966. It is held on October 21 annually.
Simple things makes me happy because they teach me to appreciate God’s Earth. They do not cost money yet they make us appreciate the richness of life, but only if we can put our egos (that sense of inferiority that makes us lie and cheat) aside.–Din Merican
September 28, 2016
He spoke Malglish at the UNGA and embarrasses Malaysia
Our Prime Minister in Waiting, Dr. Zahid Hamidi thinks he is God’s gift to our country. He is too arrogant to admit that he cannot speak Oxford English like Singapore’s erudite Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.He is a bumbling village idiot. His boss, Najib Razak speaks well, but he is a crook. Language certainly matters, but integrity and character more.
Young Cambodians at The University of Cambodia’s English Language School can show Zahid how to speak English and speak before an audience. I suggest that he should come to our language school in Phnom Penh on a 3-month sabbatical to improve his English-speaking and writing skills. My colleague, Brenden Leks, can turn him from an ugly duck into a swan in a very short time.
This is the trouble with people who are too arrogant to learn. They end up making fools of themselves in public.
Zahid Hamidi who has a doctorate from one of the Malaysian universities–that speaks volume about the quality of Malaysian education system– should have opted to speak in Malay at the United Nations which has qualified translators on its staff. In stead, he opted to embarrass Malaysia. If he is what Malaysia has to offer as Prime Minister, God Helps us. –Din Merican
September 27, 2016
August 5, 2016
Socheata Vong is a development professional at an international development organization in Phnom Penh. Born in 1982 in Banteay Meanchey province , she studied at Samdech Euv High School and earned her Bachelor’s degrees in International Relations from the University of Cambodia and in Management from the National University of Management. Her work focuses on providing technical support on elections and political processes, civic participation and social media.
Currently, she is completing her Masters degree in International Relations at Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations under the academic supervision of Professor of International Relations and Dean Din Merican.
Socheata was a Board Member of the Cambodian Economic Association (CEA) from 2009 to 2013. She is a manager of a private Cambodian Professional group (CAMPRO), an informal network joined by more than 400 Cambodian professionals working in various institutions. She is also a Managing Director of CamproPost, a website that publishes articles, essays, discussions, opinions, and documents that are related to Cambodia. I interviewed Socheata to get her views as a Cambodian citizen on the country’s civic participation past, present and future.–The Editor, CamproPost
Q. What was it like growing up in Cambodia? What were some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to be where you are today?
Socheata Vong (SV): I grew up in a small village in Banteay Meanchey, where rockets were being shot everyday in my village and near my primary school while Cambodia was still in the civil war in the late 1980s. The rockets were launched by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas from the forests and villages they occupied. All the students and myself were hiding in big holes to cover ourselves from the damages of the rockets at school and at home. The rockets were very massive, the sound was too rumbling.
I am still traumatized by that. Even now when I hear any explosions, even small balloon explosion, I don’t feel okay at all. The Khmer Rouge soldiers defected to the government in the late 1990s, abandoning Pol Pot and his cause. I was fortunate to be the only child in my family who finished high school, while struggling to earn a daily income by selling snacks in my class and in my home village. Not many students from my hometown could afford to study and live in Phnom Penh at that time. There were only a few, as I recalled.
I completed my high school in 1999, and in the same year I was awarded National Best Student in Khmer Literature, an event that I always remember. While all the graduating high school students had to pass the entrance exams to get to the university, the Khmer Literature award allowed me to choose a university without going through the entrance exams. Without that award, I would not have had a chance to come to Phnom Penh to study because of two main reasons: 1) Each public university accepted a very limited number of students who passed the entrance exams. Not many students passed. Corruption in the entrance exams was rampant at that time. 2) My family could not afford to send me to Phnom Penh and pay for a private school. That award has completely changed my life. I became a great lover of Khmer literature and novel.
Q. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
SV. My life was greatly influenced by my father who highly valued education although he didn’t have high education. He taught me at home every day during my primary education. He was the one who insisted to send me to Phnom Penh to pursue my higher education. I remembered sending my handwritten letters to my father in my hometown to tell him about my study progress and living conditions in Phnom Penh. He advised me to give a hand to others. He passed away in my hometown while I was in my first-month of employment in early 2003.
Q. What three philosophers past or present have shaped your views on democracy and have shaped your life?
SV. Buddha is my greatest philosopher. His philosophy of peace, altruism and compassion have shaped my belief system. Thomas Jefferson has influenced my thoughts about political philosophy. I am also inspired by his quote, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only living human being who shapes my inner life. I have read quite a lot about her including her untold story of personal sacrifice for freedom and democracy in her country, Myanmar.
Q. Who in Cambodia are your role models?
SV. I have been fortunate to have worked closely in a private group with three people who inspire me the most: Mr. Ok Serei Sopheak, an independent governance analyst; Mr. Heng Dyna, new President of the CEA; and Mr. Chan Sophal, former President of CEA. I have worked closely with with them and several other friends in the Cambodian Professionals (CAMPRO) network. I have been truly inspired by their hard work and their caring heart to help contribute to make Cambodia better.
I am also inspired by other people who have been working so hard to realize the vision for Cambodia. In 2015, I was fortunate to have met my academic supervisor, Professor Din Merican from Malaysia at the Techo Sen School who urged me to pursue a Masters Degree and seek academic excellence as a worthy and enriching undertaking.
Q. It has been more than 2 decades since Cambodia signed the Paris Peace Accords. In terms of democracy, in your opinion, what has improved since then?
SV. In my opinion, Cambodia has made much progress in the last 20 years. There are signs of improvement in the democratic process. Yet, there is still much more that can be done for Cambodia to realize the vision. The country has gone through a number of elections since 1993. There have been so many flaws in those elections. I am confident that these flaws are being addressed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his colleagues
I participated as an election observer in the 2008 National Assembly elections in Pailin. Voter intimidation and other irregularities were at large. I also participated in the 2013 National Assembly elections in Phnom Penh. I have observed some unprecedented events. There are reports of irregularities. So many people who turned out to vote could not find their names on the list. People were shouting and crying. Last time in 2008 when people couldn’t find their names on the register they just walked off. This time they stayed and shouted and cried. There is more momentum this time, you can feel it.
The recent election proved to be a positive sign from the perspective of being peaceful, mainly, but there were a lot of irregularities. Post-electoral problems remain just like in the past elections. There have not yet been any proper mechanism to resolve the recurring post-electoral conflict.
Q. Over 70% of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 35. How are young people helping to shape democracy in Cambodia today and what key role can they play in the future?
SV. In the past, Cambodian youth were seen as not active, not attentive and not interested in the political process. However, there have been unprecedented events where youth are now seen as a catalyst for democratic transformation. I was truly impressed by how engaged young people were in the last election. Before, they were mainly interested in entertainment and hobbies and doing fun things. This time, when the opposition leader returned to Cambodia and competed in the elections, so many young people turned out on the streets and were armed with smart phones using social media, wearing campaign T-shirts and caps and waving posters. This phenomenon of youth engagement in the political process also happened to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) when their youth supporters came out and started their campaign trails on the streets.
Despite some serious confrontations between the youth groups of both political parties, the election campaigns were peaceful. It is my strong hope that the youth will continue to play an important role to engage more in the civic participation of our country.
I learned a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi’s father who said to a soldier “You may not think about politics, but politics think about you.” I want to see Cambodian youth engage more in the social and political processes.
Q. Where would you like to see Cambodia’s democracy in 10 years?
SV. In the next ten years, I would like to see Cambodia rising not only in terms of economic growth but also social development. I want to see the Cambodian people to make informed choices on their future leaders. I wish to see Cambodian people have access to all kinds of information to make decisions in their daily life. I want more reforms in democratic development and see more women leaders.
Q. You earlier mentioned about CAMPRO. Can you tell more about the network and what you contribute in the network?
SV. CAMPRO is an informal network privately joined by more than 400 members of Cambodian professionals working in various institutions, including academia, government, NGOs, development partners, private enterprises, and media. CAMPRO has three main activities: (i) share information, views and knowledge; (ii) discuss issues; and (iii) network Cambodian professionals. Through this informal exchange of information, CAMPRO members will better understand and learn how to improve their jobs, and therefore increase their private and social contributions. Members debate on political, economic and social issues privately through an online forum.
Q. You earlier mentioned about CAMPRO. Can you tell more about the network ?
A. CAMPRO is an informal network privately joined by more than 400 members of Cambodian professionals working in various institutions, including academia, government, NGOs, development partners, private enterprises, and media. CAMPRO has three main activities: (i) share information, views and knowledge; (ii) discuss issues; and (iii) network Cambodian professionals.
Through this informal exchange of information, CAMPRO members will better understand and learn how to improve their jobs, and therefore increase their private and social contributions. Members debate on political, economic and social issues privately through an online forum.
CamproPost is a website that publishes articles, essays, discussions, opinions, and documents that are related to Cambodia. It is the brainchild of CAMPRO. Information that is published on CamproPost come from articles, essays, discussions, individual opinions and other materials that are sourced from both CAMPRO and non-CAMPRO members.
To learn more about CamproPost, please visit: http://campropost.org
Q. You’ve been able to build a successful career at a young age. What advice would you have for young people in Cambodia who may be struggling but want to follow a similar career path?
A. I have had more failures than successes and I am inspired by Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” I wish to share some messages to young people about career path as well as about journey to life.
First, start small and dream big and never lose hope. As Martin Luther King said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Embrace patience as a virtue. Enjoying the journey to your dreams is more important than realizing your dreams.
Second, we live as a community, therefore communication and networking is crucial. So, communicate with others and build networks. Third, be inspired and inspire others. Learn from inspiring people to help shape your life and inspire others with your realized dreams. Fourth, live a life of meaning and purpose by giving a hand to others. Be compassionate to yourself, your family and extend your compassion to others. My last words are: Be altruistic: give more to others and to your country without expecting any return.